On Tuesday, April 14th, the first annual Borealis Film Festival was held at my university. During this first year, submissions were incredibly slim and audience turn out maxed out at about 50 people. The format was pretty unorganized, too much so for my liking, but it was my first time submitting to a film festival of any kind. The experience still managed to be exciting.
I had submitted two films to the festival, Lights and ms and me. Despite the size of the audience, I was still really excited to see how people were going to like the films. Based on the programming schedule, the first film of mine that was to be played was ms and me, and Lights wouldn’t be played until last. The program was broken up into four different categories of films: action, drama, documentary and dramatic film.
During the first block was action, and there were two films pitted against each other. One was Time Jump, directed by my friend Jason Rugg and the other was Vengeance, directed by Austin Ploch. Both films were entertaining, and this block started the film festival off on a positive note.
The next block was drama, and this was a significantly larger category. Films of note in this category were Far-Gone by Jason Rugg, Transgression by Noah Bailey, and ms and me. This category was incredibly diverse. For example, Far-Gone could be best described as a dark comedy, while both Transgression and ms and me were decently cut and dry dramas. This category would have been pretty solid, if not for the other two films that were included. Since this was the first film festival for the university, there wasn’t really a screening process for the films that were included. Any student who submitted their film was able to make it into the festival. There were two films that would ordinarily not be shown in a film festival, and unfortunately, by showing these films, there were many members of the audience who left afterward. By the end of the drama category, the audience had dropped from 50 attendees to less than 15.
This was a quite unfortunate turn of events, especially for myself. Since Lights was the last film to be shown, it was hard being a filmmaker who was present at the festival, seeing the audience vacate the auditorium before seeing the film that I had spent the entire school year working on. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t unfortunate for the other filmmakers before me as well, but at least they weren’t there to see it.
The rest of the films in the festival included the documentary, History of Perry Theater by Rachael Downing and Echoes by Pietro Alfano as well as Lights.
At this point, I will talk about the experience of actually having an audience view my films, as small as that audience may have been. When ms and me was shown, I’m happy to say that I got the exact response from the audience that I was hoping I would get. The audience was silent while the film was playing, no snickering or whispering. When the credits began to role, there was a moment of silence before the ritual applause. It was pretty nice to see that.
When Lights was shown, it was a bit different due to audience size. I wasn’t able to see/hear as many reactions from people as I had with the first film, but I did notice that everyone was thoroughly enthused throughout the entire film, and that’s a feat since it was over 30 minutes. Overall, it was interesting and exciting to show people my work.
In the end, there were awards given. Time Jump won for Best Action Film, Far-Gone won for Best Drama Film, History of Perry Theater won for Best Documentary, and Lights won for Best Dramatic Film. There was also a surprise award that I wasn’t aware of which ms and me won, Best in Festival.
It was shocking, exciting, invigorating, satisfying, etc. to come home with awards for both of my films. Overall, it was a pretty fantastic feeling. This experience has definitely opened me up to submitting my films to other festivals in the future.